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Das "Ben shi shi" des Meng Qi (review)

Das "Ben shi shi" des Meng Qi (review) Reviews 267 complex,nuanced,andengrossingworkclearlywasalaborofenjoyment;assuch, italsoilluminateshowmuchfunthebestofscholarshipcanbe. JudyPolumbaum Judy Polumbaum is a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa who studies Chinese media and culture. MarcNürnberger.Das "Ben shi shi" des Meng Qi.Studienzur GeistesgeschichteundLiteraturinChina12.Wiesbaden:Harrassowitz, 2010.xii,285pp.Hardcover64.00isbn978-3-447-06002-8. MengQi's(fl.886)Ben shi shi(Poemsandtheiroriginalincidents)isafascinating lateTangdynastyworkonpoemsandthenarrativessurroundingthem.Asthe bookwascomposedbyanotherwiseunknownfrustratedofficialduringoneofthe mostviolentperiodsofmedievalChina--thedemiseoftheTangdynastyinthe wakeofHuangChao'srebellion--itbecomesclearimmediatelythatwearenot dealingwithpoetryforpoetry'ssakebutwithpoetryasawayofcommenting uponsocietalissues.SomeofthepoetsweencounterintheBen shi shihave slippedintoobscurity,butanastonishingnumberofthemrankamongthosewho forcenturiesnowhavebeengenerallyrecognizedasthegreatestoftheTangpoets: LiBai,DuFu,BaiJuyi,HanYu,JiaDao,LiuYuxi,WangWei,andYuanZhen.The settingsinwhichwechanceuponthesepoetsarepredominantlycourtlyinnature. Moreoftenthannot,theothercharacterspeoplingtheanecdotesareemperors, eunuchs,highofficials,nobleladies,andconcubines.Thecircumstancesinwhich theBen shi shiwascomposedandthenatureoftheanecdotesitcontainshave naturallystimulatedapoliticalreadingoftheBen shi shiasacollectionof warningstotherulersofthedyingTang. MarcNürnberger'sstudyoftheBen shi shiisconventionallystructured.The introductorypart(pp.1­44)providesinformationonthetransmissionofthetext oftheBen shi shi,itstraditionalreception,itssuccessorsorimitations,itsauthor, itspreface,itstitle(onp.44,theauthorproposesnolessthantendifferent interpretationsofthetitle),andsomeremarksontraditionalChineseliterary criticism.Mostofthebookismadeupofacompletetranslationoftheforty-one entriesthatconstitutetheBen shi shi.Thetranslationtriestostayascloseas possibletotheoriginal.Everyentryisfollowedbycopiouscommentaries,andthe wholeisheavilyannotated.Notatypicalfortheworkofabuddingacademic,there © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 268 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 isanunmistakabletendencytotrytoexplaineverything,whichoftenleadsto pagessoladenwithfootnotesthatthemaintextisseriouslymarginalized. Throughoutthebook,alltranslatedentriesandpassagesaregiventogetherwith theChineseoriginal.Laudablethoughthismaybe,itleadstotheonlyslightly irritatingfeatureofthebook:AllChinesecharactersarerepeatedineveryinstance whereaChinesenameoccurs,evenifthatname(suchasthetitleBen shi shi) occurshundredsoftimes. TheauthorcontendsthatearlierresearchontheBen shi shi,mostnotablyby HowardLevy,GrahamMartinSanders,WangMeng'ou,YamaguchiSumiko,and UchiyamaChinari,failedtodiscovertheorganizingprincipleaccordingtowhich thevariousmaterialswerestructured.ThefactthattheBen shi shiconsistsoffortyoneentriesdividedoversevensections,ofwhichthefirsthappenstobelonger thanalltheothersectionstakentogether,hasnotbeenveryhelpful.Neitherhas thefactthatthree-quartersoftheanecdotesaresetintheperiodsfrom700to750 andfrom800to850.Nürnbergerdrawscluesfromthesevenfoldstructureofthe bookandplacestheBen shi shiinalongtraditionofremonstrativeliterature, goingbacktoearliertextsinsevenpartswrittenby(orattributedto)Dongfang Shuo,MeiSheng,CaoZhi,andZhangXie.Thesymbolicnumbersevenalsoleads theauthortopointtoanothertradition,atleastasoldastheWen xuan,namely thatofpoetry(Qi ai shiorPoemsofsevenfoldsorrow)connectedwithdynastic decline.Inthefinalpages(pp.260­263),Nürnberger,eagertodiscoverascenario thatrunsthroughallofthesevensectionsoftheBen shi shi,triestoestablish formalparallelsbetweentheBen shi shiandtheQi jian(Sevenremonstrances) fromtheChu ci,traditionallyattributedtoDongfangShuo.Theargumenthereis perhapslessconvincing,butwhatishighlycommendable,inmyviewatleast,is thatNürnbergerattemptstoexplainthestructureoftheBen shi shibymakinguse ofevidencefoundintheChineseliterarytraditionand,moreimportant,within thetextitself,ratherthanusingthetexttoillustrateafashionableelementof contemporaryWesterndiscourse. Theappendixcontains,amongotherfeatures,alistoftitlesofbookcatalogues mentioningtheBen shi shi(SongthroughQingdynasties),alistofexisting editionsoftheBen shi shi,comparativetablesconcerningtheimitationsoftheBen shi shi,andtheoccurrenceinotherearlypoetrymiscellaneaofpoetsmentionedin theBen shi shi.Anindexwouldhavebeenpracticalbuthasnotbeenprovided. JanDeMeyer Jan De Meyer is at Ghent University in Belgium. He specializes in Tang dynasty literature and thought. His latest book is a Dutch translation of the Daoist work Wunengzi. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Das "Ben shi shi" des Meng Qi (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (2) – Mar 1, 2010

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Abstract

Reviews 267 complex,nuanced,andengrossingworkclearlywasalaborofenjoyment;assuch, italsoilluminateshowmuchfunthebestofscholarshipcanbe. JudyPolumbaum Judy Polumbaum is a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa who studies Chinese media and culture. MarcNürnberger.Das "Ben shi shi" des Meng Qi.Studienzur GeistesgeschichteundLiteraturinChina12.Wiesbaden:Harrassowitz, 2010.xii,285pp.Hardcover64.00isbn978-3-447-06002-8. MengQi's(fl.886)Ben shi shi(Poemsandtheiroriginalincidents)isafascinating lateTangdynastyworkonpoemsandthenarrativessurroundingthem.Asthe bookwascomposedbyanotherwiseunknownfrustratedofficialduringoneofthe mostviolentperiodsofmedievalChina--thedemiseoftheTangdynastyinthe wakeofHuangChao'srebellion--itbecomesclearimmediatelythatwearenot dealingwithpoetryforpoetry'ssakebutwithpoetryasawayofcommenting uponsocietalissues.SomeofthepoetsweencounterintheBen shi shihave slippedintoobscurity,butanastonishingnumberofthemrankamongthosewho forcenturiesnowhavebeengenerallyrecognizedasthegreatestoftheTangpoets: LiBai,DuFu,BaiJuyi,HanYu,JiaDao,LiuYuxi,WangWei,andYuanZhen.The settingsinwhichwechanceuponthesepoetsarepredominantlycourtlyinnature. Moreoftenthannot,theothercharacterspeoplingtheanecdotesareemperors, eunuchs,highofficials,nobleladies,andconcubines.Thecircumstancesinwhich theBen shi shiwascomposedandthenatureoftheanecdotesitcontainshave naturallystimulatedapoliticalreadingoftheBen shi shiasacollectionof warningstotherulersofthedyingTang. MarcNürnberger'sstudyoftheBen shi shiisconventionallystructured.The introductorypart(pp.1­44)providesinformationonthetransmissionofthetext oftheBen shi shi,itstraditionalreception,itssuccessorsorimitations,itsauthor, itspreface,itstitle(onp.44,theauthorproposesnolessthantendifferent interpretationsofthetitle),andsomeremarksontraditionalChineseliterary criticism.Mostofthebookismadeupofacompletetranslationoftheforty-one entriesthatconstitutetheBen shi shi.Thetranslationtriestostayascloseas possibletotheoriginal.Everyentryisfollowedbycopiouscommentaries,andthe wholeisheavilyannotated.Notatypicalfortheworkofabuddingacademic,there © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press 268 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 isanunmistakabletendencytotrytoexplaineverything,whichoftenleadsto pagessoladenwithfootnotesthatthemaintextisseriouslymarginalized. Throughoutthebook,alltranslatedentriesandpassagesaregiventogetherwith theChineseoriginal.Laudablethoughthismaybe,itleadstotheonlyslightly irritatingfeatureofthebook:AllChinesecharactersarerepeatedineveryinstance whereaChinesenameoccurs,evenifthatname(suchasthetitleBen shi shi) occurshundredsoftimes. TheauthorcontendsthatearlierresearchontheBen shi shi,mostnotablyby HowardLevy,GrahamMartinSanders,WangMeng'ou,YamaguchiSumiko,and UchiyamaChinari,failedtodiscovertheorganizingprincipleaccordingtowhich thevariousmaterialswerestructured.ThefactthattheBen shi shiconsistsoffortyoneentriesdividedoversevensections,ofwhichthefirsthappenstobelonger thanalltheothersectionstakentogether,hasnotbeenveryhelpful.Neitherhas thefactthatthree-quartersoftheanecdotesaresetintheperiodsfrom700to750 andfrom800to850.Nürnbergerdrawscluesfromthesevenfoldstructureofthe bookandplacestheBen shi shiinalongtraditionofremonstrativeliterature, goingbacktoearliertextsinsevenpartswrittenby(orattributedto)Dongfang Shuo,MeiSheng,CaoZhi,andZhangXie.Thesymbolicnumbersevenalsoleads theauthortopointtoanothertradition,atleastasoldastheWen xuan,namely thatofpoetry(Qi ai shiorPoemsofsevenfoldsorrow)connectedwithdynastic decline.Inthefinalpages(pp.260­263),Nürnberger,eagertodiscoverascenario thatrunsthroughallofthesevensectionsoftheBen shi shi,triestoestablish formalparallelsbetweentheBen shi shiandtheQi jian(Sevenremonstrances) fromtheChu ci,traditionallyattributedtoDongfangShuo.Theargumenthereis perhapslessconvincing,butwhatishighlycommendable,inmyviewatleast,is thatNürnbergerattemptstoexplainthestructureoftheBen shi shibymakinguse ofevidencefoundintheChineseliterarytraditionand,moreimportant,within thetextitself,ratherthanusingthetexttoillustrateafashionableelementof contemporaryWesterndiscourse. Theappendixcontains,amongotherfeatures,alistoftitlesofbookcatalogues mentioningtheBen shi shi(SongthroughQingdynasties),alistofexisting editionsoftheBen shi shi,comparativetablesconcerningtheimitationsoftheBen shi shi,andtheoccurrenceinotherearlypoetrymiscellaneaofpoetsmentionedin theBen shi shi.Anindexwouldhavebeenpracticalbuthasnotbeenprovided. JanDeMeyer Jan De Meyer is at Ghent University in Belgium. He specializes in Tang dynasty literature and thought. His latest book is a Dutch translation of the Daoist work Wunengzi.

Journal

China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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